Friday, February 12, 2010

Writer Biz #5 – Record Keeping Part D – Writing Time

Why would you want to keep track of writing time? After all, don’t you have enough things to keep track of already? Of course you do. However, if you are a new writer, or even a mid-list one, there are some very important reasons why you should. And before we continue on, I mean actual writing time spent on a piece of work you will submit for a contract. Not net surfing in the name of research, facebooking, or tweeting.

1. Professionals Do It

Even if you’re only writing part time because you still have an evil day job (EDJ), you’re treating your writing as a business, correct? Fanged bunny slippers and pajamas aside, lawyers do it, accountants do it, and have you ever asked a general contractor how long it takes to do a particular job? If he’s worth the price you’ll pay him, you can bet your next royalty check he can tell you how many man-hours it should take to complete a task. Professionals know how they spend their time, because like it or not, time is money. They don’t waste it.

2. Production

If you want to be a successful writer, and for the content of this post, I mean make a living writing, or have it be your EDJ, you need to be able to produce a marketable product in a timely fashion. What are you going to say when the editor of your dreams wants to know how fast you can have book two completed to fulfill the two book contract she’s offering? Do you stand there and say, ‘Um, if Billy doesn’t get sick, and I call in sick to work, and use my vacation time, maybe six months to a year.’ Of course not.

You’re a professional, remember? You know from the records you’ve kept, that you worked an hour a day, or three or whatever time frame you have, for a month, six months or how ever long it took, so you know how long it should take to complete the next work. The reason being, life happened while you were writing your book. Chances are really good, it will continue to happen during the second one. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. You won’t need that contract after all.

Yes, you still must write the best story possible. As you write, you become more knowledgeable about handling the writing process. Not to say it get’s totally easier, but you will learn your strengths and weaknesses, thus be able to write faster. Which means, increased production. You will be able to build a larger back list, which means increased royalties. It’s all good, no?

3. Taxes

Consider your writing log like a mileage log. You’ll want to note the date, time, length of time, and the project you worked on. You can spreadsheet this or set up a manual log, and it’s going to be quicker than keeping up with the food journal you have. Oh, you don’t have one? I do, but it’s under the table leg, so it’s got a far more important job at the moment.

You cannot deduct writing time per se. What you can do is maintain a log and use it for supporting evidence if necessary, that yes, your writing is a business and you are treating it like one. Even if it’s part-time.

4. Motivation

Lastly, if your writing career isn’t shaping up the way you want it to, i.e. if you think you’re not making enough income for the effort you’re putting out, I suggest you get a reality check. And a writing log will help you do just that.

Have you really been writing everyday for a month? And your writing log is blank? So, were you really writing, or were you getting caught up in the extraneous business of writing, doing things like research, online chat groups, promo, all of those other things which suck up a writer’s time like nobody’s business. Not that these things aren’t necessary in manageable amounts, but you still must write. Or you will run out of product.

Yes, it really is that simple.


  1. Holy cow, woman. You're a guru. Is this stuff going in the workshop you're gonna teach?

    Rock on.